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After watching his infant daughter, Juniper, fight for her life at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Kevin Gibson found a unique way to thank the doctors and hospital staff who saved his little girl.
Gibson and his wife, Jennifer, welcomed twin daughters Jemma and Juniper — Jemmy and Junie for short — in June 2020. Even before the girls’ birth, they knew Junie had a congenital heart defect called aortic stenosis that would lead to obstruction and narrowing between Junie’s left heart valve and her aorta.
After spending a month in the NICU of a different hospital, Junie spent 28 days at Riley, almost dying during a cardiac catheterization and spending time on life support, attached to a machine to help her heart and lungs work properly. When Junie was healthy enough, the then-2-month-old had heart surgery.
Today, Junie is 8 months old and thriving in her home with her twin sister and her older brothers, who are 6 and 3.
But Gibson remembers a time when he and his wife were afraid their daughter wouldn’t survive.
“To us, having two super-healthy giant boys, we were scared for this tiny little girl who weighed three pounds at birth,” Gibson, who lives in Indianapolis, told TODAY Parents. “But all these months later, she’s only maybe a month behind developmentally from her sister — because she lost a month being on life support — and it’s so fun watching her track everybody else in the house and try to do what they do.”
During the times when Kevin and his wife took turns staying with Junie in the hospital, the father of four found peace in late-night chats with hospital police officers, security guards who help keep patients and their families safe.
“On stressful nights when the beeping and the machines would get to me, I’d go for walks around the hospital,” Gibson said, adding that because he had a background in security and investigative work, he would chat with the officers and swap “war stories” to pass the long nights.
Gibson was between jobs when he learned his wife was pregnant with twins. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, work was scarce, so he filled his time helping care for the three children the couple had at home and staying with his baby daughter in the hospital.
When one of the hospital police officers suggested Gibson apply for a job within their unit, he knew he’d found his calling.
“They told me, ‘It’s long hours and you’ll see a lot of sad stuff here,'” Gibson recalled. “I was like, ‘I’ve already gotten the gist of it being here with my daughter.'”
For the past three months, Gibson has worked at Riley as a hospital police officer, protecting families and patients and being a shoulder to cry on when parents are struggling.
“You don’t run around chasing the radio all day looking for trouble,” Gibson said of his job duties. “You’re literally helping people on the worst day of their lives and I get it. I’ve been there. I see the same look on people’s faces that we had when we were there and I let them download on me. It’s a misty-eyed experience.”
For Gibson, taking the police position is also a way to thank the hospital that saved his daughter’s life.
And, Gibson says his wife feels she owes Riley a debt of gratitude as well: She was born with gastroschisis, a birth defect in which the baby’s intestines extend outside their abdomen, and was treated at Riley from infancy through the time she turned 18.
“I call Riley ‘the Magic Kingdom,'” Gibson said. “For us, it’s like Disney World for surgeries. They do miracles and nothing that happens there is anything short of amazing.”
“I felt like I had to repay a debt and say thank you,” he added. “If I was a millionaire, I’d fork over a bunch of money to them, but helping people is the way I have to say thanks.”